Tuesday, December 06, 2011

#289: Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque

“I think I love you?  Well, actually, no.  I’m sure of it.  I most certainly do not love you or your studio.”  You can imagine David Cassidy singing that, on stage, night after night since 1975 when the Partridge Family got canned and went off the air.  Shortly after that Cassidy fell victim to the dreaded ‘teen idol’ curse and stopped selling albums.  It mattered not what he did, the world saw him as Keith Partridge, singer of crappy kiddies songs.  He was either passé for the same people who’d wet themselves over him in 1972 and had moved onto staring at Robert Plant’s cock, or just being shit by those who’d smoked a bit more weed and were busily pontificating the virtues of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and King Crimson.  Everyone else had moved on and the new kids who were once busily growing up Brady had grown up and instead of longing for a sister like Jan they merely wanted to pork Marcia.  Vale David Cassidy, opr David Cassorole as he was often called down here, we knew him well.

The truth is that Dave didn’t sing that badly.  He could carry a tune and, together with assorted songwriters, producers and musicians, created some memorable bubblegum pop.  It didn’t matter that the stand in on his show was a woman, it didn’t matter that he had a tendency to stick his knob through his gate so some slapper could blow him, it didn’t matter that he liked to leap into bed with the first crab infested groupie he saw and it didn’t matter that he assembled a band that were more comfortable playing Purple Haze at full volume than C’Mon Get Happy.  None of it mattered; he was the clean cut Kid Of The Hour – the Justin Bieber of 1971.  He posed semi-nude for Rolling Stone and outraged all of the parents of the little girls who screamed and creamed their way to sleep at the thought.  A Sex-God was Cassidy.  He wasn’t a bad actor and did the best with the material that he was given, which usually meant that he just had to stand around, look cute, utter a few one-liners, sing a song and smile a lot.  The Partridge Family were akin to the Brady Bunch really, a wholesome family that had absolutely zero in common with real families of the time.  Danny Partridge would wise mouth, he was told not to and that was that.  If I wise mouthed I usually got smacked in the mouth and that was that, if I were lucky.  We never saw the episodes where Danny would be helping his pals to see Laurie naked in the shower, or where Keith started to sniff glue and beat the living suitcase out of Chris, or where Shirley found the porn stash, or where Rueben was caught molesting Tracy.  Nope, if it happened in real life you’d not see it on TV.  It was the same with the Brady’s – you mean to tell me that Marcia and Greg didn’t explore the joys of incest?  Please!  But I digress.  Actually, no, I don’t.  Speaking of incest, Shirley Jones, who played Shirley Partridge in the series, was actually David Cassidy’s step-mother in real life.  She married David’s father, Jack Cassidy, a man whom, if you believe only half the stuff you read, had a prick that’d make John Holmes gasp and liked slapping it about into anything he could find, animal, vegetable or mineral, regardless of gender.  And speaking of doodles, the rumour is that David’s dick is nothing to sneeze at, the the point where his brothers, Patrick and Shaun (he of the utterly execrable ‘hit’ That’s Rock And Roll) have called him ‘Donk’ for years, Donk = donkey dick.  Now that’s digression!  And don’t get me started on Errol Flynn or Forrest Tucker.

The money, for the Partridge Family, was in the merchandise.  There was millions to be made, and made it was, even if the cast who’s faces were being exploited and sold saw next to nothing of it.  Cassidy, in his splendidly bitchy book, goes into exquisite detail as to how he was ripped off and then cast aside once his fifteen minutes faded.  The ultimate insult for poor David though came when he was snubbed at a party by Don Johnson.  That’s right, Don Johnson.  You wouldn’t have thought that Don could afford to pick and choose who he speaks to, but clearly he could, and that made Cassidy lower on the pole than Don, and that’s damned low.

Cassidy went through most of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s dazed by drugs, booze and poverty, slowly picking himself up, growing a mullet and singing his way back to life in Broadway based shows.  He was always popular in England and he managed to get a bit of a career going there, something that wasn’t going to happen in the USA where they like their washed up stars to remain washed up, dead, homeless, in jail or all of the above.  Unless it’s Hollywood, they forgive almost anything, including child rape (hello Roman Polanski) if they like you, talent need not apply.  But nobody was going to forgive David Cassidy, if only because he seemed to have too much fun when he was at the top.  Still, Dave come out the other side, bitter but sober, by all accounts.  He began to distance himself from the Partridge Family, but you can’t escape your past, especially when your past is on late night television and your on-screen brother is busily getting busted for drugs and beating up transvestite hookers, God love you Danny Bonaduce.  What stunned a lot of people was realising that Cassidy was broker than you and me both.  He’d made millions during his peak days but lost it all due to bad investments, even worse contracts, horrid deals and parasites.  Cassidy had a good manager who was overwhelmed by the sheer scope of Cassidy’s fame – at one point he was possibly bigger than Elvis and the Beatles combined.  But then the Beatles had broken up and Elvis was vanishing inside of a peanut butter coated Big Mac washed down with booze and pills.  Slowly David reconciled his past, sadly his on-screen sister and off screen allegedly friend with benefits for at least one evening Susan Dey wants nothing to do with the show or the people associated with it.  Good on her, stick to your guns I say!

David shared the depths of his depression and lack of cash in a brilliantly bitchy book, titled C’Mon Get Happy: Fear & Loathing On The Partridge Bus released in the early 1990s.  He revised it and re-released it later and as such books go it’s a hoot.  Not one to shy away from the fact that he was a young idiot, he takes a lot of the blame for the swindling of his finances, but he also lays a lot of the blame squarely at the feet of those who ripped him off.  It’s a cracker of a read and one thing that emerges is the studio’s insistence that it owes him nothing at all, indeed if anyone owes it’s Cassidy who owes them for giving him fame.  Which has led to David finally filing a law-suit against Sony and Screen Gems for money, and its money that he should get and, on the surface of things, he has a halfway decent shot indeed, considering that both parties have often boasted that the money the Partridge Family has raked in since the 1970s exceeds $500,000,000, via board games, toys, shit, books, records, DVDs, videos, royalties, sales, more shit, sheets, toilet paper, and virtually anything you can think of.

To start with David signed his first contract when he was a minor, which meant that it was null and void.  By the time this was discovered the show had been on air for a season and his property status was rapidly approaching hot, so another contract, with more favourable terms, was duly drawn up and signed.  This contract offered more favourable terms: 15% of the net proceeds of all merchandise using his name, likeness and/or voice and an additional 7.5% from the show and any spin-offs (of which there was one, and it bombed).  By now people are laughing at the term ‘net proceeds’, but unlike net profits, you can make money from net proceeds.  Here’s how it worked: the term ‘net proceeds’ translated as such – once the gross receipts were in the studio would take a flat 25% off the top, followed by another 10% for commissions and the like.  What was left would be called the ‘net receipts’, so, in effect, David was down for 15% of 65% of the gross, which, when you see an amount of half a billion, isn’t something to throw darts at.  Naturally the studio haven’t paid, and each time an accounting firm has gone through the books they come up blank.  Eventually the squeaky wheel that is now David Cassidy got so tiresome that they merely stopped talking to him, stopped sending him any accounts or cash and applied the silent treatment to him.  The shoddy deal was nothing new, almost anyone who has been part of such a show has their own horror stories to tell, from Happy Days through to, well, anyone really, other than the Brady Bunch, who, by all accounts, made a bit of cash from their association.  Perhaps David would have been better off as Greg Brady.

Cassidy finally snapped in May of this year when he was told that he was owed nothing, and further to that he had no financial stake in the actual show, but only in merchandise that featured his name, likeness or voice.  Even better he was told that all money owed had been paid in the 1970s and that he should now just piss off quietly and fade back into obscurity (ok, I added the last bit, you can bet that someone at a board meeting said those words as they shoved a lump of lox into their face).  Now here’s where Cassidy has a case.  Stupidly the same letter states that Screen Gems and Sony’s right to use David Cassidy’s name, likeness or voice, expired in the 1970s, yet their right to merchandise Partridge Family material, as long as it does not bear Cassidy’s name, likeness and voice, remains intact.  From records to DVDs to CDs to digital downloads – it’s all been available and earning a nice chunk of change.  And each time something is released you can bet that, on the cover, you’ll find a photo of David Cassidy – his likeness.  On each CD is his voice and likeness, and each DVD bears his name, likeness and/or voice.  Whoops!  So while they can’t release anything by David Cassidy, they only have the right to merchandise The Partridge Family without his name, voice or likeness – a black silhouette where Keith Partridge once stood.

If Cassidy can prove that Screen Gems and Sony have failed to provide proper accounting then he’ll stand a good chance at winning.  If Sony proves that the contract has long since expired for merchandise, yet they have released product with Cassidy’s image and voice then they’ll have to account for the period since, which could be decades.   If the judge voids the original contract then Sony will have to enter into a new licensing deal with Cassidy.  The options aren’t endless, but if Cassidy can get a decent lawyer, and going on the fact that the law firm he’s using quote Sun Tzu on their site, and boast a lawyer who once worked for one of the biggest and brightest such law firm, he stands a better than average chance of coming out on top.  Sony might serve themselves neatly by settling, but they won’t.  As it stands there’ll be more than a few former sit-com stars sitting back in their velour beanbags watching this case with great interest.  Good for David, that’s how to fight the The Man, and, if we’re lucky, perhaps he’ll whip Big Johnson out in court and bash a few people around the ears with it.  C’Mon Get Happy my hairy arse!


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